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Start the Week

Zadie Smith on social mobility

Stephanie Flanders with Zadie Smith, David Kynaston, David Willetts MP and Owen Jones.

Stephanie Flanders discusses social mobility with Zadie Smith, David Kynaston, David Willetts MP and Owen Jones.

On Start the Week Stephanie Flanders discusses social mobility. Zadie Smith's novel NW is a portrait of modern urban life in which characters try, but mostly fail, to escape their past. The Conservative Minister David Willetts and the columnist Owen Jones discuss what meritocracy and opportunity mean in today's society. And the social historian David Kynaston looks to the end of the 1950s when meritocracy became the buzz word of the day.

Producer: Katy Hickman.

Credits

Presenter
Stephanie Flanders
Interviewed Guest
Zadie Smith
Interviewed Guest
David Willetts
Interviewed Guest
David Kynaston
Interviewed Guest
Owen Jones
Producer
Katy Hickman

Start the Week

Spying and Surveillance: The Snowden Files

Anne McElvoy with Luke Harding, Sir David Omand, Annette Dittert and Alain de Botton.

Anne McElvoy discusses surveillance and spying with Luke Harding, Sir David Omand, Annette Dittert and Alain de Botton.

Last year The Guardian ran a series of scoops about the extent of mass surveillance by the security services here and in the USA. Anne McElvoy talks to the journalist Luke Harding about the inside story on the whistle-blower Edward Snowden and what motivated him to commit one of the biggest intelligence leaks in history. The former director of GCHQ, Sir David Omand, fears the leaks have done untold damage and endangered state security. Claims that America hacked the phone of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel caused uproar in Germany, and the journalist Annette Dittert argues that the memory of the Stasi's spying machine is still raw. There has been little outcry among the British public and the philosopher Alain de Botton explores the nature of news and the 'noise' it generates.

Producer: Katy Hickman.

Credits

Presenter
Anne McElvoy
Interviewed Guest
Luke Harding
Interviewed Guest
David Omand
Interviewed Guest
Annette Dittert
Interviewed Guest
Alain de Botton
Producer
Katy Hickman

Start the Week

Hilary Mantel

Tom Sutcliffe with Hilary Mantel, Neil MacGregor, Jeremy Deller and Kei Miller.

Tom Sutcliffe with the award-winning author Hilary Mantel, British Museum director Neil MacGregor, artist Jeremy Deller and poet Kei Miller.

Hilary Mantel takes a break from her award-winning series of novels charting the rise and fall of the Tudor fixer, Thomas Cromwell, to discuss her new collection of short stories. She talks to Tom Sutcliffe about why her latest work eschews the historical to focus on contemporary Britain. The Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor tells the story of Germany from its Roman past to the present day through objects that symbolise the dynamic changes in its culture and identity. 'English Magic' is the focus of the artist Jeremy Deller's touring exhibition which melds myth, folklore and politics to explore British society. And the Jamaican poet Kei Miller pits the scientific cartographer against the spiritual map builder to explore our understanding of place and territory.

Producer: Katy Hickman.

Credits

Presenter
Tom Sutcliffe
Interviewed Guest
Hilary Mantel
Interviewed Guest
Neil MacGregor
Interviewed Guest
Jeremy Deller
Interviewed Guest
Kei Miller
Producer
Katy Hickman

Start the Week

Andrew Hussey on the legacy of France's Arab Empire

Tom Sutcliffe with Gabrielle Rifkind, Andrew Hussey and Ziauddin Sardar.

Tom Sutcliffe discusses conflict resolution with Gabrielle Rifkind, Andrew Hussey and Ziauddin Sardar.

Tom Sutcliffe talks to Andrew Hussey about the often fraught relationship between France and its Arab ex-colonies, and how that plays out in the banlieues of Paris. The psychotherapist Gabrielle Rifkind recounts her experience of conflict resolution in the Middle East. While Rifkind emphases the need to understand what's happened in the past, the writer Ziauddin Sardar tries to imagine what the world would be like if we explored the future in a more systematic and scientific way.

Producer: Katy Hickman.

Credits

Presenter
Tom Sutcliffe
Interviewed Guest
Gabrielle Rifkind
Interviewed Guest
Andrew Hussey
Interviewed Guest
Ziauddin Sardar
Producer
Katy Hickman

Start the Week

AL Kennedy and David Sedaris on matters of the heart

Tom Sutcliffe with AL Kennedy, Lavinia Greenlaw, David Sedaris and Simon Blackburn.

Tom Sutcliffe discusses love and self-love with AL Kennedy, Lavinia Greenlaw, David Sedaris and Simon Blackburn.

Tom Sutcliffe talks to AL Kennedy about her latest collection of short stories of love and hurt. The poet Lavinia Greenlaw retells the tragic love story of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde. The philosopher Simon Blackburn unpicks the idea of self-love from the myth of Narcissus to today's tv hair adverts: 'because you're worth it', while the humorist David Sedaris uses his own life and loves as the focus of his writing.

Producer: Katy Hickman.

Credits

Presenter
Tom Sutcliffe
Interviewed Guest
AL Kennedy
Interviewed Guest
Lavinia Greenlaw
Interviewed Guest
David Sedaris
Interviewed Guest
Simon Blackburn
Producer
Katy Hickman

Start the Week

Michael Gove on teaching history

Andrew Marr discusses the teaching of history with the Education Minister Michael Gove.

Andrew Marr talks to the education minister Michael Gove and historians Margaret MacMillan and Tom Holland.

Andrew Marr discusses the teaching of history with the Government's Education Secretary Michael Gove. The new history curriculum for schools has been hotly contested and the Minister explains his views on whether facts and dates trump historical analysis. He's joined by Margaret MacMillan who will present a real-time countdown to the outbreak of WWI in the coming year, the academic and tv historian Simon Schama, and Tom Holland who has recently translated Herodotus, considered to be 'the Father of History'.

Producer: Katy Hickman.

Credits

Presenter
Andrew Marr
Interviewed Guest
Michael Gove
Interviewed Guest
Margaret MacMillan
Interviewed Guest
Tom Holland
Producer
Katy Hickman

Start the Week

Clive James

Andrew Marr talks to writer and former television presenter Clive James.

In a special programme Andrew Marr looks back over the long career of Clive James. Even at the height of his fame as the star of weekend television, Clive James was always writing: poetry, essays and a series of memoirs. Now in his 70s and suffering from serious illness, he has been nominated for an award for his translation of Dante's The Divine Comedy. James explains how this last phase of his life has brought him a new seriousness; 'a late sublime'.

Producer: Katy Hickman.

Credits

Producer
Katy Hickman
Presenter
Andrew Marr

Start the Week

Faisal I of Iraq and the making of the modern Middle East

Anne McElvoy with Richard Evans, Malu Halasa, Scott Anderson and Ali Allawi.

Anne McElvoy discusses the making of the modern Middle East and counterfactual history with Richard Evans, Malu Halasa, Scott Anderson and Ali Allawi.

Anne McElvoy explores the roads not taken with the historian Richard Evans. Counterfactual history began as an Enlightenment parlour game and has become a serious academic pursuit, but Evans argues against endless speculation as to what might have been. The final meeting between Lawrence of Arabia and Faisal I of Iraq was an anti-climax which belied their history. The biographers of these two leaders, Scott Anderson and the former Iraqi politician Ali Allawi, place these men at the centre of the making of the modern Middle East. The writer Malu Halasa offers an alternative view of the violent events in Syria as she curates a book of political posters, comic strips, blogs and plays.

Producer: Katy Hickman.

Credits

Presenter
Anne McElvoy
Interviewed Guest
Richard Evans
Interviewed Guest
Malu Halasa
Interviewed Guest
Scott Anderson
Interviewed Guest
Ali Allawi
Producer
Katy Hickman

World Agony

Episode 2: India

Agony aunt Irma Kurtz talks to her Indian counterpart Bachi Kakaria about Indian agony.

Agony aunt Irma Kurtz talks to her Indian counterpart Bachi Kakaria, focusing on her 'Giving Gyan' newspaper advice column. From July 2014.

Irma Kurtz, Cosmopolitan magazine's Agony Aunt for over 40 years, talks to a different agony aunt from around the world for each programme in this series.

She speaks to Aunts from America, India, Australia, Egypt and South Africa, and reflects on the universal and contrasting problems that occur in their particular society. These Aunts, many of whom have dramatic personal lives themselves, offer advice in newspaper columns, on radio phone-ins and on-line.

Irma draws on her ample experience to offer a useful perspective on their approach to problem solving. Together they discuss the problems specific to their communities and listeners hear examples of some of the letters they receive and the advice given.

Programme 2: Bachi Kakaria, India.

Irma talks Bachi Kakaria, who writes her advice column Giving Gyan in two Indian newspapers, the Mumbai Mirror and the Bangalore Mirror.

Giving Gyan translates roughly as 'laying it on the line', and Bachi certainly does that. This is a very different style of agony aunting to the one we're used to. She is level headed and empathetic but doesn't wrap her advice in any sentiment, as her strap line intimates: 'There are agony aunts and then there's Bachi, she'll sort you out'.

Her qualifications, she says, are none - other than a close observation of life, personal and professional. Her post bag reflects the concerns particularly of young people who, after years of Indian socialism, have been plunged into consumerism. On the one hand there is liberalism and, on the other, conservatism - so there is confusion and conflict in the minds of India's young.

Produced by Ronni Davis

A White Pebble Media production for BBC Radio 4.

Credits

Presenter
Tom Sutcliffe
Interviewed Guest
Grayson Perry
Interviewed Guest
Penelope Curtis
Interviewed Guest
Philip Davis
Interviewed Guest
Nicholas Lovell
Producer
Katy Hickman

Genre

Series

World Agony

Start the Week

Irving Finkel on the Ark Tablet

Tom Sutcliffe with Harry Collins, Irving Finkel, Hattie Naylor and Colin Blakemore.

Tom Sutcliffe discusses the role of the scientific expert with Harry Collins, Colin Blakemore, Hattie Naylor and Irving Finkel.

Tom Sutcliffe looks at the role of the expert. The curator Irving Finkel decodes the symbols on a 4,000 year old clay tablet and discovers the instructions for the building of an ark. Harry Collins asks why attitudes towards scientific expertise have changed and looks to reassert the special status of science. Colin Blakemore is an expert in neuroscience and vision and he reflects on his part in the documentary, Tim's Vermeer, which explores the relationship between art and science. The playwright Hattie Naylor tells the story of an astronomer going blind who learns to see the wonder of the universe in a different way.

Producer: Katy Hickman.

Credits

Presenter
Tom Sutcliffe
Interviewed Guest
Harry Collins
Interviewed Guest
Colin Blakemore
Interviewed Guest
Hattie Naylor
Interviewed Guest
Irving Finkel
Producer
Katy Hickman

Start the Week

Karen Armstrong on War and Religion

Tom Sutcliffe with Karen Armstrong, Justin Marozzi and Christopher Coker.

Tom Sutcliffe discusses war and religion with Karen Armstrong, Justin Marozzi and Christopher Coker.

Karen Armstrong argues against the notion that religion is the major cause of war. The former nun tells Tom Sutcliffe that faith is as likely to produce pacifists and peace-builders as medieval crusaders and modern-day jihadists. But Justin Marozzi charts the violent history of Baghdad and asks what role religion had to play there. The philosopher Christopher Coker explores how warfare dominates our history, and argues that war, like religion, is central to the human condition.

Producer: Katy Hickman.

Credits

Presenter
Tom Sutcliffe
Interviewed Guest
Karen Armstrong
Interviewed Guest
Justin Marozzi
Interviewed Guest
Christopher Coker
Producer
Katy Hickman

Start the Week

Jordan Peterson: Rules for Life

Jordan Peterson, Louise O'Neill, Hashi Mohamed and Lawrence Wright with Tom Sutcliffe.

Cultural discussion programme. Jordan Peterson, Louise O'Neill, Hashi Mohamed and Lawrence Wright teach Tom Sutcliffe lessons for life.

Jordan Peterson, clinical psychologist and YouTube sensation, professes to bring order to chaos in his 12 Rules for Life. He tells Tom Sutcliffe about the importance of individual responsibility, using lessons from humanity's oldest myths and stories. But his home truths are not without controversy: acclaimed by many, his critics accuse him of reinforcing traditional gender and family roles and attacking liberal values.

Hashi Mohamed is the living embodiment of many of Peterson's life rules: he came to Britain when he was 9 years old with little English and through a combination of skill, luck and hard work is now a barrister. But he is critical of the lack of social mobility and his own rags to riches story is one he thinks is increasingly difficult to realise.

The Irish author Louise O'Neill has made her name challenging the roles given to women. In her books for young adults she has tackled small town hypocrisy and sexism, rape culture and victim-blaming. She too has looked to the stories of the past and her latest book is a radical retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lawrence Wright turns his focus on his home state Texas, to see what it can teach us about America. A 'superstate' with a GDP larger than most industrialised countries, and with a population on track to double by 2050, Texas both confirms and challenges its stereotype. Wright is confronted by cowboy individualism, gun-loving patriotism and nostalgia for an ersatz past, but also finds pockets of liberal progressiveness and entrepreneurial drive.

Producer: Katy Hickman

Picture: Jonathan Castellino for Penguin.

Credits

Presenter
Tom Sutcliffe
Interviewed Guest
Jordan B Peterson
Interviewed Guest
Hashi Mohamed
Interviewed Guest
Louise O'Neill
Interviewed Guest
Lawrence Wright
Producer
Katy Hickman

Start the Week

Peter Carey on legacies of the past

Tom Sutcliffe with author Peter Carey, broadcaster Afua Hirsch and journalist Geert Mak.

Tom Sutcliffe with author Peter Carey, broadcaster Afua Hirsch and Dutch journalist Geert Mak.

The prize-winning novelist Peter Carey tackles head on for the first time the legacies of colonialism in his native Australia in his latest book, A Long Way From Home. He talks to Tom Sutcliffe about the damage and loss for the Stolen Generations.

The writer and broadcaster Afua Hirsch believes Britain is also a nation in denial about the past and present, and argues it's time to talk more openly about race and identity.

The Dutch journalist Geert Mak once travelled the breadth of Europe to explore what it meant to be European at the end of the 20th century. He found countries struggling to understand the wrongs they had committed during the Holocaust, the Second World War and decades of dictator rule.

Credits

Presenter
Tom Sutcliffe
Interviewed Guest
Peter Carey
Interviewed Guest
Afua Hirsch
Interviewed Guest
Geert Mak
Producer
Katy Hickman

Start the Week

The power and beauty of objects.

Jessie Burton, Jonathan Haskel, Marion Rankine and Andrew Nahum with Tom Sutcliffe.

Cultural discussion programme. Jessie Burton, Jonathan Haskel, Marion Rankine and Andrew Nahum with Tom Sutcliffe.

A mysterious doll's house is at the centre of Jessie Burton's novel The Miniaturist, now dramatised for television. Burton tells Tom Sutcliffe about the claustrophobic world she created amidst the wealthy merchant traders of 17th century Holland. The economist Jonathan Haskel points to the quiet revolution that has taken place since then, as developed countries now invest more in intangible assets like design and software, than in tangible goods like machinery and computers. He asks what impact this has had on economic inequality and low productivity. And then two objects that tell stories far beyond themselves: the umbrella and the Ferrari. Marion Rankine looks at the humble brolly, now a simple object to protect you from the rain, but once a powerful symbol of class and power. And 70 year after Enzo Ferrari brought out his first car, the guest curator at the Design Museum Andrew Nahum looks back at the creation of an iconic brand.

Producer: Katy Hickman

Picture courtesy of Ferrari.

Credits

Presenter
Tom Sutcliffe
Interviewed Guest
Jessie Burton
Interviewed Guest
Jonathan Haskel
Interviewed Guest
Marion Rankine
Interviewed Guest
Andrew Nahum
Producer
Katy Hickman

Start the Week

Les Misérables: novel of the century?

Andrew Marr with David Bellos, Dinah Birch, Simon Callow and Barbara Hannigan.

Cultural discussion programme. Andrew Marr discusses the 19th-century novel with David Bellos, Dinah Birch, Simon Callow and Barbara Hannigan.

On Start the Week Andrew Marr talks to David Bellos about Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. Bellos argues that this 19th century masterpiece is the novel of the century, which demonstrates the drive to improve human life both morally and materially. Dinah Birch compares what was happening in literature on the other side of the channel, reflecting the breadth of society in Britain. Simon Callow makes the case for the composer of the century, Richard Wagner, while the singer Barbara Hannigan explains how a 12th century legend has been given a contemporary twist in the opera Written On Skin.

Producer: Katy Hickman.

Credits

Presenter
Andrew Marr
Interviewed Guest
David Bellos
Interviewed Guest
Dinah Birch
Interviewed Guest
Simon Callow
Interviewed Guest
Barbara Hannigan
Producer
Katy Hickman

Start the Week

Dissecting Death

Tom Sutcliffe with Raymond Tallis, Laura Tunbridge, Mark O'Connell and Carla Valentine.

Cultural discussion programme. Tom Sutcliffe discusses time and mortality with Raymond Tallis, Laura Tunbridge, Mark O'Connell and Carla Valentine.

On Start the Week Tom Sutcliffe delves into the world of transhumanism, a movement whose aim is to use technology to transform the human condition. The writer Mark O'Connell has explored this world of cyborgs, utopians and the futurists looking to live forever. Raymond Tallis seeks to wrest the mysteries of time away from the scientists in his reflections on the nature of transience and mortality. Laura Tunbridge listens to the late works of Beethoven, Schumann and Mahler to ask whether intimations of mortality shape these pieces, while the mortician Carla Valentine uncovers what the dead reveal about their past life.

Producer: Katy Hickman.

Credits

Presenter
Tom Sutcliffe
Interviewed Guest
Raymond Tallis
Interviewed Guest
Laura Tunbridge
Interviewed Guest
Mark O'Connell
Interviewed Guest
Carla Valentine
Producer
Katy Hickman

Start the Week

Cultural Lifespans

Tom Sutcliffe meets James Crawford, Semyon Bychkov, Julia Sallabank and Peter Randall-Page

Tom Sutcliffe talks to writer James Crawford, conductor Semyon Bychkov, linguist Julia Sallabank and sculptor Peter Randall-Page.

On Start the Week Tom Sutcliffe picks through the remains of vanished buildings with the writer James Crawford. In his book, Fallen Glory, Crawford looks at the life and death of some of the world's most iconic structures. The conductor Semyon Bychkov explores why some music fades, and the enduring appeal of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin. Julia Sallabank studies endangered languages and whether it's possible to revive indigenous languages on the verge of extinction. And it is origins which feature on Peter Randall-Page's latest sculpture: a naturally eroded glacial boulder carved with stories of creation myths from cuneiform to text speak.

Producer: Katy Hickman.

Credits

Presenter
Tom Sutcliffe
Interviewed Guest
James Crawford
Interviewed Guest
Semyon Bychkov
Interviewed Guest
Julia Sallabank
Interviewed Guest
Peter Randall-Page
Producer
Katy Hickman

Start the Week

France Special

Andrew Marr with Agnes Desarthe, Karim Miske, Anne-Elisabeth Moutet and Robert Gildea.

Andrew Marr discusses France with novelists Agnes Desarthe and Karim Miske, commentator Anne-Elisabeth Moutet and historian Robert Gildea, talking hours before the Paris attacks.

Andrew Marr was in Paris on Friday to record a special edition of Start the Week about France. Hours later the Paris attacks happened. This programme is not about these attacks or Islamic State or the French role in the war in Syria, but it is a conversation about the political, cultural and religious fault lines in France from the 19th century to today.

As BBC Radio 4 plans to broadcast a retelling of Emile Zola's 20 novel cycle, Les Rougon-Macquart, the journalist Anne-Elisabeth Moutet explores whether Zola is a 19th century gateway into understanding modern France. The novelist Agnès Desarthe has set her latest novel at the beginning of the 20th century and mixes the intimate with the great events of French history. The French Resistance is one of France's heroic myths and is central to the country's identity, but the historian Robert Gildea says the reality is far more complex. And contemporary France in all its complexity is represented in Karim Miské's thriller set among the radical Islamic preachers, Christian fundamentalists and corrupt police officers in one of the poorest suburbs of Paris.

Producer: Katy Hickman.

Credits

Presenter
Andrew Marr
Interviewed Guest
Agnes Desarthe
Interviewed Guest
Karim Miske
Interviewed Guest
Anne-Elisabeth Moutet
Interviewed Guest
Robert Gildea
Producer
Katy Hickman

Start the Week

Mysteries of the Universe

Carlo Rovelli, Carole Mundell, Helen Scales and Laura Walker with Andrew Marr.

Andrew Marr explores space, time and the ocean with Carlo Rovelli, Carole Mundell, Helen Scales and Laura Walker.

The Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli delves into the meaning of time. He tells Andrew Marr how we live in a timeless world but have evolved to perceive time's flow.

The astrophysicist Carole Mundell is interested in the extragalactic. Her studies of the universe beyond our Milky Way help expand knowledge of cosmic black holes and explain powerful explosions in space.

Space travel is the new frontier, but exactly 250 years ago the Endeavour set sail from Plymouth seeking to test the limits of scientific understanding. An exhibition at the British Library, curated by Laura Walker, tells the story of Captain Cook's world-changing voyages and their studies into the skies, seas and lands beyond our shores.

And the marine biologist Helen Scales is more interested in exploring the world beneath the oceans. Her latest book marvels at the wonders of fish, from centuries-old giants to tiny restless travellers moving in shoals across our globe.

Producer: Katy Hickman.

Credits

Presenter
Andrew Marr
Interviewed Guest
Carlo Rovelli
Interviewed Guest
Carole Mundell
Interviewed Guest
Helen Scales
Interviewed Guest
Laura Walker
Producer
Katy Hickman

Start the Week

World on the Move

Andrew Marr talks to Frank Dikotter, Sir Hew Strachan, Patience Agbabi and Tahmima Anam.

Andrew Marr explores the mass movement of people with Frank Dikotter, Sir Hew Strachan, Patience Agbabi and Tahmima Anam.

World on the Move: on Start the Week Andrew Marr explores how the mass movement of people has changed societies, in a special edition broadcast in front of an audience as part of a day of programmes on BBC Radio 4. The historian Sir Hew Strachan looks back at the largest single influx of people into Britain when 250,000 Belgians arrived during the Great War, while Frank Dikötter explores the biggest forced internal migration as tens of millions of young Chinese were sent to work in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution. The poet Patience Agbabi humanises the mass movement of people with her tale of one refugee's story. And what of those who return? The Bangladeshi author Tahmima Anam looks at what happens when you try to go back home.

Producer: Katy Hickman.

Credits

Presenter
Andrew Marr
Interviewed Guest
Frank Dikotter
Interviewed Guest
Hew Strachan
Interviewed Guest
Tahmima Anam
Producer
Katy Hickman

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